Shopping may produce a natural high, but these new retailers are taking feel-good to the next level by combining beauty and health under one roof.
This story first appeared in the February 8, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Number of stores: Two. millihelen.it
Best-selling brands: Dr. Hauschka, Organic Pharmacy, Bod, Patyka
Best-selling products: Organic Pharmacy’s Antioxidant Cream, Dr. Hauschka’s Rose Cream
First-year sales: Industry sources say $700,000 combined.
Just before Marco Manuli opened the doors of his two organic and natural MilliHelen apothecaries in Milan, he personally tested most of the boutiques’ products. The experiment left him beauty-obsessed. “Now I change what I use on my skin all the time, just like a woman. I’m really into getting gratification from a product,” says Manuli. The 29-year-old economics graduate said he opened his MilliHelen boutiques to charter new territory in Italy’s beauty retail scene, often called stagnant by industry insiders. The apothecaries—named MilliHelen after the Greek mythological figure Helen of Troy, whose beautiful face was supposed to have launched a thousand ships—carry skin, body and hair care, as well as nutritional products and lines for babies, new mothers and men. Each store measures between 1,000 and 1,200 square feet.
Manuli’s doctrine, which is framed and hung on walls in both stores, is to sell only authentic organic and natural products that don’t contain parabens, mineral oils, artificial colorants or other harmful ingredients. Among the brands stocked are the London-based Organic Pharmacy, the Canadian hair care label Druide and the skin care and nutrition brand Officinali di Montauto, based in the Tuscany region of Italy. Both the Corso Geneva and Via Montebello locales feature what Manuli describes as an “herbal technician” and a naturopath-cum-biologist on hand to give customers free advice for beauty and nutritional treatments on the outside and inside. “That’s our strength; we have professionals who really understand the effectiveness of a product and what type of person it is adapted to,” says Manuli. MilliHelen’s next project is a treatment room. In February, a single hardwood-floored, minimalistic white-walled beauty cabin is scheduled to open behind MilliHelen’s Via Montebello location, offering holistic antistress treatments such as shiatsu massage, hot stone massage and Rolling, a technique to rebalance muscles and bones. —Stephanie Epiro
Number of stores: Two with a third planned for 2009. leanature.com
Best-selling brands: Natessance’s Sweet’Coton face and body care
Best-selling product: Lift’Argan Soin de jour Tenseur Immediat, $32
Annual sales: Industry sources expect the Paris store to ring up about $90,000 in its first 12 months.
Léa Nature aims to sell natural, organic and fair trade beauty products to eco-conscious consumers wanting quality at a reasonable price, says Raphael Allouch, the group’s financial director. Its first freestanding Parisian store stocks some 200 beauty items, ranging in price from $4.30 to $25. Another 100 products include nutritional supplements, herbal teas, organic cotton towels and babywear. The 430-square-foot store, which opened last October, serves as both a retail outlet and showroom for the firm’s four cosmetics brands: Floressances, plant-based skin, hair and baby products; Jardin Bio Equitable, organic and fair trade products; Laboratoires Léa Nature, eight different face and body lines built around a single ingredient like rose or honey, and Natessance, which includes vegetable oil-based lines like Lift’Argan skin care and organic lines like Sweet’Coton body care. The retailer also sells nutritional supplements and clothing. In all, beauty generated one-fifth of Léa Nature Group’s 2007 sales of $149 million, mainly through mass market doors and natural chains.
Because of the limited number of certified ingredients, going fair trade and organic can be particularly challenging for cosmetics. Says the company’s marketing director Jeanne Christensen, it’s “like trying to play Bach with one string.” But Léa Nature has found many synergies with food and textile ingredients. For instance, fair trade quinoa from Bolivia is found within both the company’s cookies and body scrubs, whereas organic and fair trade cotton is used in its T-shirts and skin care.
Inside the boutique, the eco-friendly design features walls swathed in green organic paint, low-energy lighting, wooden shelving and wall mirrors left over from the space’s former life as an electronic-goods outlet. Amid growing consumer demands that companies prove product claims, Léa Nature emblazoned the logos for its fair trade and organic certifications on the store’s facade. “We want to flag our commitments,” says Allouch. Choosing to locate the boutique on the Boulevard du Montparnasse could be trumpeted as an eco-friendly move, too. The company’s Paris-based office is in the neighboring Tour Montparnasse and trains to the firm’s La Rochelle, France, headquarters leave from the Gare Montparnasse—just a hop away. Indeed, Léa Nature Group’s chief executive Charles Kloboukoff wants healthy living to be company policy. Sales teams travel in hybrid cars; Léa Nature Group’s 300 employees do yoga at work and the firm’s warehouses are undergoing environmental overhauls. —Ellen Groves
Number of stores: four, with 250 to 300 planned for the next five to six years. naturathek.com
Best-selling brand: Tea Pleasures (bath gel and crystals)
Best-selling product: Beauty Elixir Anti-Age Facial Care
First-year sales: “We first want to see how the stores are accepted, gain experience, and then determine our sales expectations,” says a spokesman.
Natural beauty products are no novelty in Germany, but natural cosmetics sold in a stylish, lifestyle environment definitely is. Esüdro AG, a warehousing and logistics specialist serving drugstores, perfumeries and beauty brands in Germany, Austria and France, saw an opportunity to fill a health-oriented beauty niche between apothecaries and drugstores with its new Naturathek vertical chain. “There was nothing clearly positioned to jointly address cosmetics and over-the-counter products,” a spokeswoman says. Claiming to be “the first specialty store for health and beauty,” Naturathek opened four doors—in Berlin, Worms, Mainz and Sindelfingen—last fall, with 250 to 300 doors expected to be in operation in Germany over the next five to six years. Stores measure about 1,000 square feet on average.
Naturathek takes a two-pronged approach, offering a full range of vitamins and dietary aids to support the body’s inner core, and skin care and cosmetics to tend and nourish its outer shell. In all, there are 450 stockkeeping units, 60 percent of which is health care and 40 percent beauty; beauty products are priced from about $12 for Tea Pleasures Crystal Bath in green, white, fruit, oriental or floral tea scents, to $88 for an antiaging serum.
The entire assortment was developed in Germany, and at least 90 percent of the ingredients are natural in origin. Skin care products are free of perfume, mineral oil, paraffin and parabens, and with the exception of beeswax, contain no animal-based substances. The line targets all age groups, offering specific ranges for teenage skin, sensitive skin, twentysomethings, thirtysomethings, fortysomethings and 50-plus, as well as “Just Men” and “Baby’s First.” There are also after-sports, hand care, foot care and hair care ranges.
The Naturathek stores are modernly spare, light and inviting, with apple green walls, citrus-toned columns, bleached wood floors and dark wood furniture and displays. Signature rounded squares appear on all packaging in a rainbow of muted tones, serving to both identify the different product lines and provide a strong graphic accent. Although a color code on the wall is meant to assist customers in finding products, Naturathek is not self-service oriented. “We’re proud that every store has many well-trained personnel, as opposed to the German trend of offering less and less sales help,” says Naturathek’s director Matthias Diehl. —Melissa Drier
Lane Crawford Healthy Living
Number of stores: One. lanecrawford.com
Best-selling brands: Elemis, N.V. Perricone M.D. Cosmeceuticals, Dr. Hauschka, Care by Stella McCartney
Best-selling product: Dr. hauschka lip care stick
Annual sales: executives declined to comment, but industry sources say Healthy Living will generate between $900,000 and $1 million in first-year sales.
When Lane Crawford opened a Healthy Living section in its Pacific Place location here in May 2007, it set out to deliver a “consolidated, luxury presentation—a one-stop destination for healthy living with a focus on the experience and education,” says Simone Pedersen, the retailer’s general merchandise manager of cosmetics. Healthy Living, measuring about 900 square feet, was built around three core brands: Elemis, Dr. Hauschka and Care by Stella McCartney, but also includes a wide array of products from companies such as Cor, Lisa Simon, Ole Henrikson, Trilogy, Juice Beauty and N.V. Perricone M.D. Cosmeceuticals. Items on offer (there are over 500) run the gamut from natural and organic skin care to beauty tonics and juices, oxygen in a can, sunscreen and hair care. The department is clearly organized, with streamlined merchandising units. To best get each product’s message across to consumers, Lane Crawford holds workshops, consultations and gives out oodles of samples. “It’s not just about organic and natural brands,” says Pedersen. “Every brand chosen in this area has to be defined as ‘It’s good for me because….’” —Jennifer Weil
Number of stores: Two with 10 more planned for 2008. veria.com
Best-selling brands: Chandra, Dr. Hauschka
Annual sales: Sources estiimate revenue for the TV channel, web site and stores could reach $400 million in five years.
For billionaire media magnate Subhash Chandra, how you live has a direct impact on how you look. “If you live in harmony with nature, with the food you eat and the lifestyle, if you are compassionate and giving, then you don’t need cosmetics to look good,” he says. “Your face changes.”
Chandra has put his money where his mouth is, investing $200 million in Natural Wellness U.S.A., a company that sells products and information promoting good health via three avenues: a TV channel, a Web site and retail stores offering spa treatments, yoga and beauty products. Its brand name is Veria, derived from “veritas,” Latin for truth.
“We have the opportunity to talk to people on many levels, to interest them and entertain them and make them more receptive,” says David Humphrey, president.
With its requisite green marquee, the first Veria boutique is tucked into the corner of an open-air shopping center in Plano, an upper-middle-class suburb of Dallas. There are more to come: The goal is to open 11 company-owned units this year, including outposts in Atlanta, New York, Bethesda, Md., Los Angeles, Seattle and Denver, and to follow that with 500 franchises.
Four people in Veria’s corporate management are veterans of Whole Foods Market, and it shows. Like the natural foods giant, Veria sports an earth-toned shop that stocks beauty products free of parabens, animal testing and synthetic colors and scents, as well as nutritional supplements, homeopathic remedies, scented candles and organic cotton clothing. Shoppers are offered a free cup of hot herbal tea as they peruse the goods or await a treatment or yoga class.
Veria’s leading beauty labels are its own brand, called Chandra, plus Dr. Hauschka skin care and Giovanni hair care, according to Janie Hazelton, vice president of products. Chandra’s 55 products address skin and hair care plus massage and aromatherapy; prices average from $9 to $17, topping out at $24.95. In April, Veria plans to launch custom beauty formulations that are patent pending, Hazelton says, while mineral makeup is due in March. “The products will drive the center’s retail business,” she says.
Veria’s yoga studio also serves as a space for seminars on health. A secluded spa area offers massage, body and skin treatments. Bringing all of Veria’s channels together in the store, a flat screen broadcasts Veria TV, while two computers enable guests to visit veria.com. The site displays daily health and beauty updates, sells products and promotes Veria TV via trailers for its shows, which are all produced exclusively for the channel. Featuring programs on healthful cooking, Pilates and the like, Veria TV is currently accessible to 14 million households via Dish TV. Humphrey is negotiating with additional media providers to expand its reach. “The beauty is the way these three businesses support each other,” he says. “There are very few places where there are this range of offerings under one roof,” he continues. “This is about wellness in a broad sense.” —Holly Haber